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Butterfly Creek Orchids, 22 Sept 2012

Green Hooded Orchid

Greenhood Orchid

Written by Sue Boyde

Nine members of Kapiti Foreset and Bird, and one friend from Island Bay, met at the Bus Barn at Eastbourne at 10 am on a beautiful Saturday morning. We met with Carlos Lehnebach, the Botany Curator at Te Papa, our guide on a tour of native orchids in the bush above Eastbourne.
This bush area is home to something like 28 different species of orchid. Carlos introduced us to at least six of them on the banks of the track heading up to the ridge above Butterfly Creek. We saw Lobulum, past its flowering, with tiny seed stalks poking up through heart-shaped leaves; two species of sun orchid, just starting to grow flower stalks; onion orchids, just about to flower; green hooded orchids in full flower and in profusion; and the spider orchids which are the subject of Carlos's research project. These are first noticeable as patterns of heart-shaped leaves; close examination reveals small dark-brown flowers with a green centre.
The puzzle with these spider orchids (and many other orchid species) is that they have no nectar, so how do they lure insects to pollinate them? The orchids that Carlos studies may possibly be mimicking certain fungi so they can induce fungus gnats to climb through them, picking up pollen packets on the way.
We took around 2 ½ hours to climb to the ridge, a walk that would normally take half an hour, and it was time well spent with botanising and photography. At the ridge-top we found delicate ephiphytic orchids on the beeches, many of them showing tiny yellow-white flowers.
We lunched at the cross-roads to Kowhai St and Butterfly Creek, before going part-way down the Kowhai St track to see more orchids. I think it was there that we got to see a Lobulum with little reddish-brown flowers.
As the day was getting on, we decided not to go down to Butterfly Creek but to return as we had come, to the Bus Barn.
I've reported what I gathered from the day, but I believe Carlos, and Matt who is also an expert, must have seen twice as many species. Several of the party, who were more used to tramping than to botanising, learned what marvels can be found in an ordinary-looking track edge when one has a knowledgable guide and a leisurely pace!